Co-curators Roseanna Dias and Josephine Gyasi have spent the first part of 2021 thinking about the links between creativity and care, in preparation for a new public programme at Knowle West Media Centre launching in July. This blog post shares some of their collaborative research and development journey so far.
Roseanna Dias is a Bristol based freelance producer, curator and facilitator interested in creativity and social change. Her work draws on co-creation and approaches which centre care, working with organisations like Rising Arts Agency and Gentle/Radical.
Josephine Gyasi is a creative producer working at Knowle West Media Centre. Freelance project coordinator and inclusion officer working with projects such as Black Girl Convention and Sun Kissed Youth. Community is at the heart of her work, with a passion for race equality and social justice. firstname.lastname@example.org – @josephine.gyasi
As creative producers, curators and facilitators, we see a sector that often exploits, extracts and tokenises creatives as part of a wider system of capitalism. A culture of hyper-productivity and burnout, and a lack of space for rest, is commonplace – affecting disproportionately those who are already most underrepresented, under-resourced and underserved by the sector.
During this R&D project we’ve been focussing on ways of working that centre people and their care in order to create the conditions for co-creation and creativity to flourish on artists’ / creatives’ (not industry’s) terms. Along with our collaborators so far, we’ve been dreaming up a blueprint for the future: one where care is recognised as universal, reciprocal and central to sustainable and authentic creative practice. Through experimentation, workshops, reflection sessions, and getting creative ourselves, we’ve developed a programme called Creativity + Care that will launch in July 2021.
This June, we’re excited to launch a call out for artists / creatives to create work around our first strand of the programme which will explore Care Languages. This theme takes inspiration from the idea of Love Languages (words of affirmation, quality time, acts of services, gifts, physical touch) which describe different ways of expressing and receiving love. We want to expand this thinking into exploring how we express and receive care for ourselves and others through creative practice.
“Care’ is also a social capacity and activity involving the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of life. Above all, to put care centre stage means recognising and embracing our interdependencies.”
― The Care Collective, The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence
It feels important to share with the world how we’ve arrived at this point and share how our research has tested out and embodied our blueprint for change. We’ve documented our process so far in our Creativity + Care Zine designed by Grace Kress from Shelby X Studios.
We’ve learnt that creating in step with artists / creatives and their needs means slowing down and practising active listening – creating opportunities for reflection and shared learning in advance of putting opportunities out into the world. Back in April we held an initial co-creation session with five artists / creatives to explore what the programme could look like, to help us design the aims and design principles for the project, and to feed into our first artist commission brief. The following creatives joined us for an afternoon of exploration:
Daniel Edmund – Speaker and presenter who advocates and speaks on topics such as; wellbeing, the issues of men’s mental health, gender inequality and race inequality.
Elsie Harp AKA Divina Botanica – Florist and trainee flower farmer and passionate mental health practitioner, and the creator of a herbal medicine and radical self care zine – created for and to benefit the Black community.
Grace Kress – Creative campaigner, illustrator and curator bringing together communities, exploring arts and activism, radical self-care and other areas addressing political and societal issues through their zine Shelby x Studios.
Raquel Meseguer – Founder of Unchartered Collective who creates theatrical encounters that explore the lived experience of chronic illness and invisible disability.
Jae Tallawah – Music maker, illustrator, visual note-taker and space curator working freelance and as MAIA’s Creative Legacy & Inclusion Lead. They curate experiences that make people feel seen and provide opportunities to heal.
During our group co-creation session we thought about:
What could we explore in this programme to do with Creativity + Care?
What would we want to see from a commissioning brief that centres care?
What principles do we want to see the programme uphold?
We invited different people to hold space during the session and share their creativity and care practices – from breath work to imagining sanctuary together – the afternoon we spent together online felt nourishing and inspiring.
Our co-creation session also felt productive and dynamic – it enabled us to develop key words and key questions, and three main areas of work emerged, which will form three pilots for this programme. They were Care Languages, Contracts of Care and exploring the role of a Care Coordinator.
“If collective access is revolutionary love without charity, how do we learn to love each other? How do we learn to do this love work of collective care that lifts us instead of abandons us, that grapples with all the deep ways in which care is complicated?”― Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice
The way we work is deeply rooted in dialogue with creatives and communities – this means we are aware of (and constantly learning about) the power dynamics inherent within co-production and co-design processes. It was our desire to be transparent with collaborators about where they had power to shape the programme as we moved through the R&D process. We also wanted to ensure each part of our co-creation process was adequately resourced and supported so we paid artists to spend time reflecting on prompts before and after the session and to comment on our first draft of the programme plan and documents, which had been shaped by our discussions.
Whilst we’ve been working on this, it has sometimes felt overwhelming – like there is so much need for this work, and also the conversations and concepts that were emerging were so rich – that we needed to ensure we could give it the time, and care, required. We’ve been grateful to KWMC for enabling us to slow down the pace of our curation and production processes so that we could resist the urge to define everything too quickly. As we were revisiting and rewriting the programme aims and principles, we began to sense a poem emerging, and Love In Action, was born (which you can read in the ‘Creativity + Care‘ zine)
We are interested in both what the programme looks and feels like, as well as how we create a caring community around it. We believe that when we create these spaces in community, to feel seen, heard and in which to heal, we create something greater than the sum of its parts.
The Creativity + Care programme launches with our Mini Commissions Artists Call Out in June where four artists / creatives will be invited to explore the theme of Care Languages with us. They will also take part in a pilot Care Giving Circle and ways of sharing their own creativity and care practices with others. Through this research we are also developing a Blueprint for Care in the Creative Industries – an evolving set of recommendations and ways of working that put care, access and community at its heart.
“Pleasure activists believe that by tapping into the potential goodness in each of us we can generate justice and liberation, growing a healing abundance where we have been socialized to believe only scarcity exists.”― Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good